By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | MOGADISHU (IDN) — Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame, better known by his pen name Hadrawi, has passed away in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, after a long illness, according to family members. He was 79.
“We have lost an icon in Somali literature,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said. “A man whom we will remember for his role in peace-building and conflict resolution, building the mindset of many Somalis through his wisdom and poems for the betterment and the unity of Somalis.
“I console all Somali people and his family for his departure.”
Called “the Shakespeare of Somalia,” Warsame battled illness for years that left him hospitalized.
Born in Burao, the capital of the Toghdeer region in British Somaliland, to a nomadic camel-herding family, Hadrawi graduated in literature and education at the Somali University in Mogadishu in the early 1970s, shortly after Somalia declared independence.
He grew up in the Yemeni port city of Aden, where he lived with his uncle. Here he became known for his vivid imagination and storytelling, earning him the nickname “Hadrawi”.
His work, which numbers over 200 poems, cut across political, clan and economic classes.
“Without poetry, we would not exist as a society. It can rouse thousands of people in a minute and demobilize thousands in a minute. As the stomach needs food, so the brain needs beautiful words,” Hadraawi once said.
As an influential commentator, his protest poems and plays against the military junta led by former dictator Siad Barre led to his imprisonment in the notorious Qansah Dheere for five years in the mid-1970s.
Upon release, he fled to Ethiopia, where he joined the Somali National Movement (SNM) and continued writing revolutionary poems. He refused to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. He returned to his homeland to singlehandedly lead a march (known as the “Hadraawi Peace March”) appealing for peace and an end to all animosities.
One of his most famous poems, Hooyo‘, which means mother, is an ode to Somali women and their societal role.
His most extensive work, an 800-verse poem titled Daba Huwan, which translates as “cloaked in black,” chronicles the hardships endured by the millions of Somalis forced to flee their homeland and settle abroad, which he experienced when he escaped Somalia’s civil war in the 1990s. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 August 2022]
Photo: Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadrawi) in 2018 against the backdrop of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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